In Michigan, the age of consent is 16, and people who engage in sexual activity with children who are underage may be convicted of statutory rape (also called criminal sexual conduct). Michigan’s laws also prohibit teachers from engaging in sex with students aged 16 or 17 years old.
For more information on statutory rape, see Statutory Rape Laws, Charges, and Punishments.
In statutory rape cases, the determinative fact is the age of the child. Even if the underage person pursues or agrees to the sexual relationship, the defendant can still face criminal conviction. Of course, people who commit sex acts against others without their consent can also be convicted of sexual assault or assault and battery.
Under Michigan’s laws a person commits criminal sexual conduct in the third degree by engaging in sexual penetration (intercourse, oral or anal sex, or digital penetration) with:
Any sexual activity (including, but not limited to sexual penetration) with a child under the age of 13 or with a child between the ages of 13 and 16 by an adult who is in the child’s family or household or in a position of authority over the child is punished more severely, as first or second degree criminal sexual conduct.
(Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § § 750.520b, 750.520c, 750.520d.)
It is a lesser crime (criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree) to engage in sexual activity short of sexual penetration with:
(Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § § 750.520e.)
In Michigan, people who lure or encourage children under the age of 16 to engage in any sexual conduct commit the crime of child enticement, even if no sexual conduct ever results. A common scenario that results in enticement charges is a defendant who meets a child online and arranges to visit the child for sex.
For more information on this crime, see Child Enticement Laws in Michigan.
Mistake. In most states, including Michigan, it is not a defense to a charge of statutory rape that the defendant mistakenly believed the child to be of age. This is true even if the child tells the defendant and others that he or she is older and looks and acts older.
(People v. Cash, 351 NW2d 822 (Mich. 1984).)
Marriage. It is a defense to a charge of consensual sexual activity with a person under the age of 16 (or a student age 16 or 17) that the defendant and the child are married. (Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § § 750.520d, 750.520e, 750.520l.) The marital defense is a remnant of the marital rape exemption.
For more information, see Michigan Marital Rape Statutes.
The defendant’s age. Many states have enacted “Romeo and Juliet exceptions,” named after Shakespeare’s young lovers, to protect from criminal charges teenagers who engage in consensual sexual activity with other teens. Michigan’s statutory rape law doe not exempt teens from prosecution for sexual penetration, but they are protected from prosecution for other sexual activity.
Michigan’s sex offender law (see below) does not require young people who are convicted of statutory rape to register. For example, a 17-year-old who engages in consensual petting with a 14-year-old could not be prosecuted for a crime. However, if the parties engaged in oral sex, the 17-year-old could face prosecution.
Criminal sexual conduct in the third degree is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Sexual conduct with a child under the age of 13, or with a child age 13 to 16 where the defendant is in a position of authority, is punishable by a minimum of 15 years in prison, up to life imprisonment. Sexual penetration of a child under the age of 13 is punishable by a minimum term of 25 years.
Criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree is punishable up to two years in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both.
(Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § § 750.520b, 750.520c, 750.520d, 750.520e.)
Adults in Michigan who are convicted of sex crimes against children are required to register as sex offenders. However, people who are convicted of criminal sexual conduct based on consensual sexual conduct with children over the age of 13 who are not more than four years older than their victims are not required to register.
(Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § § 28.722, 28.723.)
Being convicted of statutory rape, like any sex crime, can have extremely serious consequences. If you are charged with a crime as a result of engaging in consensual sexual activity, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney can tell you what to expect in court and help you navigate the criminal justice system so that you can obtain the best possible outcome.